As the world continues to get more and more technologically advanced, digital tools and approaches become more and more engrained in our day to day lives. Universities are no exception to these advancements as I am sure most of us can note how technology, especially those dependant on the internet, have become more and more so involved in our day to day lives. Email has connected us to the world around the clock so that students and staff remain up to date, at the same time this service also enables any quick questions to be answered without having to seek out a meeting time with another individual. Research can be done almost entirely online (depending on the subject of your research), as one now has mass collections of research from media, to articles, and books at their finger tips thanks to the digitizing and uploading of all of these formats on to easily accessed databases. In turn once your research project is complete it can even be submitted online. Entire discussion and courses are now being held online too, making it so you don’t even have to leave the comforts of your own room. While this can prove beneficial for students living in cities far from Guelph or who’s schedules are a bit hectic, you also lose the aspects of face to face interaction which for some people, myself included is a large part of a class. You can go entire semesters discussing subjects with a group of people, yet never know who the person is on the other end of the conversation. In online courses, lectures are replaced by readings and slide shows, which depending on your learning style can make learning significantly harder or easier. Yet it seems like this is the way our world is drifting as it becomes more convenient and seen as a financially better alternative.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what a University can do using technology, for all I have described so far is Email and Courselink. Depending on your classes, specific tools and software will be introduced to better help you with the subject. I took a geography class last year where the lab portions of the class were heavily reliant on a piece of software known as Whitebox (created by Prof. John Lindsay of the University of Guelph), which when coupled with LANDSAT images or even maps from Google Earth, it can be an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to studying the earth from the sky or space. A range of things can be achieved when using this software from reconstructing old aerial photographs, to stitching together numerous satellite images. I have also used programs such as PEAR to edit and be edited by other students when writing papers and technologies such as the clickers have served as an interesting way for classes to become a bit more interactive.
As I move on with my education and career, it is without a doubt that digital tools and approaches will be a part of my future. As a student of history, online databases will always prove one of the best starting points, while the creation of displays be it for work or for school will always rely on the likes of Photoshop, a great tool for producing visually impressive as well as informative displays. Digital photography has also been a part of my life, serving not only as a hobby but an effective way to document artifacts, locations and events that occur at work during the past and future summers. The limits of this new digital era are almost endless as it continues to evolve day in and day out.